Monday, December 06, 2010
La Bonne Humeur
La Bonne Humeur
Brussels is supposedly known for its Moules Frites, or Mussels and French Fries. Supposedly, these people are masters of the art of mussels and I'm determined to find "the best."
After consulting numerous online resources who said to avoid the touristy streets and the "known" mussel joints, I was directed to a small and simple restaurant called La Bonne Humeur or The Good Humor. Growing up with Good Humor Ice Cream, the name is instantly appealing and I'm determined to make it out there.
According to the maps, La Bonne Humeur is not easy to get to. I ask the concierge about a taxi to the restaurant. Google Maps says it's an eleven minute drive. The concierge tells me forty five Euros. Forget that.
Instead, I look to transit. I can take the metro to Brussels North Station and then the tram - all for under 15 euros round trip. But that includes a 750 meter (3/4 kilometer) walk in the bitter and freezing cold with clothing ill-equipped to handle the weather. I opt for a taxi from the station.
My 1,5Kg of moules.
Twelve Euros and ten minutes later, I'm in the restaurant. The wood paneled walls and formica tabletops remind me of the 70s/80s era of interior decorating. The fifty seat restaurant is about 75% full and filled with patrons sitting at tables with steaming cauldrons of mussels in front of them. I think I'm in the right place.
The owner is a relatively young-looking guy, maybe late 20s or early 30s. He's friendly and welcoming and hands me their menu. It's a few pages long and filled with grilled meats and other stuff that seem superfluous when coming to a mussels restaurant. I just want mussels and there are six options to choose from ranging from the simple white wine to garlic to curry and more, with or without cream.
The mussels come in two sizes: 1 kilo and 1.5 kilos. I opt for the 1.5 kilo size not even thinking that this really means roughly three pounds of mussels.
The Curry Sauce.
Ever since I had the curry Moules Mouclade at Les Halles years ago, I've always been a fan. Problem is, most places offering mussels do not offer it with a curry flavored sauce. However, La Bonne Humeur does and I'm waiting on 1.5 kilos of curried mussel goodness - with a side of frites.
After what seems an interminable wait (I was pretty darn hungry when I walked in), my own searingly hot cauldron of mussels arrives and the pot is jam-packed with mussels. Oh gosh, so this is what three pounds of mussels looks like: completely off the hook.
I start into them and they're blazing hot. I must slow my roll and wait a moment for the top layer to cool.
To be honest, I'm expecting Mussels in Brussels to be transcendental. I'm expecting them to be amazing, or at least as good as the mouclade that I've grown to love. In other words, I'm expecting a lot.
In the end, the mussels were good, but not transcendental. The mussels were a different variety than the ones I see at home. These are not orange colored, these are cream-colored mussels and they're slightly mushy in texture rather than springy. The serving was plentiful but I really didn't like the curry sauce. The curry flavor was quite mild but it was the combination of ingredients that didn't sit well with me. A major ingredient here was celery and I now know that I am no fan of celery in a mussel broth. It just doesn't lend a complimentary flavor.
I leave filled with steaming hot mussels but I wasn't blown away. I just didn't agree with the sauce. I'm a little bit disappointed but only because I was expecting so much.
And the frites? They were decent, but I'm still holding fast to my previous statement that I have yet to find frites in France or Belgium that truly rival those I can get in America.
La Bonne Humeur
Chaussée de Louvain 244
02 230 71 69